When talking about static and dynamic websites, one may be easily tempted to think that the latter are infinitely better, because their content may move and change.
But this is not exactly the truth and, sometimes, it’s even quite the opposite. There can be static elements on a dynamic site and the other way around, or the line may be even blurred.
And there’s also Jamstack – an innovative philosophy that connects the idea of traditional static and dynamic sites, bringing the best of both worlds together in an astonishing way. You should definitely take a look at this approach, and we will guide you through it!
From this article you will learn about:
- the main differences between static vs dynamic website
- the features of traditional static and dynamic websites
- when to use static or dynamic websites
- Jamstack – a modern approach to rendering
- building a Jamstack site
- the benefits of Jamstack
What makes a website static or dynamic?
The first thing that is worth discussing are the specific elements that decide if a site is static or dynamic. We can refer to the code of the website – static sites have content that is coded directly on the page, while dynamic ones reference an external database, CMS, or other source of data.
Rendering makes the difference between static and dynamic websites
In this article, we will refer to a method of delivery of a web page, which refers to how the page is rendered. Rendering covers the visual representation of digital content in a form specific for a certain environment – in this case, displaying the website in a browser window.
Static sites are pre-rendered, which means their looks have been prepared even before the user requested it, and dynamic sites are rendered real-time, upon the user’s request. They are literally being created from elements in a moment when the user asks for it.
Once we have stated the difference between traditional static and dynamic websites, let’s take a look at their pros and cons.
Features of static websites
As we have said, static websites are pre-generated and delivered via a CDN. They can be created using so-called static site generators, but you can’t easily update the content via CMS as in the case of dynamic web pages (unless you try the Jamstack approach that we’ll cover in this article, too!). You can use different generators, such as Jekyll, Gatsby, Hugo, Middleman, or Nuxt.
What are the advantages of static sites?
Firstly, they are more flexible – the design may differ per page and match the needs of different content types.
Since the web pages don’t have to be connected to a database, their basic cost is lower, and the building process is simpler. Pages are also less complex and there are fewer things that can break (and even when there is a crash, the site can be easily restored using redeploy).
What’s also important, however, is that pre-rendered static sites load very fast and are resistant to even very high traffic, as well as being more secure, because they don’t interact directly with the user.
Last but not least, because of their high speed and direct availability of their content, they are more SEO-friendly.
What are the disadvantages of static sites?
There is also a dark side to the above features. Pages are more difficult to update and scale, because you have to construct a new page for every need. Needless to say, the maintenance costs are in this case also higher.
And of course, the main disadvantage is the lack of real-time content delivery and true interaction with users.
As we have already mentioned, when it comes to “classic” static sites, there is also no CMS allowing a non-technical user for content management.
Features of dynamic websites
The content of dynamic websites is generated real-time, and it highly depends on the user’s actions. That’s what makes them powerful but also more complex.
Dynamic websites are managed via CMS – content management systems. Examples of popular CMS include Zesty, Drupal, WordPress, Kontent.ai, Sitecore or Contentstack, and many others.
What are the advantages of dynamic sites?
The main advantage seems obvious – it’s the access to highly personalized or time-sensitive content, organized and structured in a neat way thanks to a database.
This may also include solutions such as customer login, or payments for ecommerce. The content can be managed and manipulated by multiple users via CMS.
Obviously, the ongoing maintenance cost is lower because all the pages follow the same design pattern.
What are the disadvantages of dynamic sites?
Possibilities also mean challenges. First of all, there are design limitations – the whole system of pages usually has to be built upon one theme or a set of design principles.
Of course, you may try to build custom templates for every page, but it makes the whole project much more complicated.
The building costs are also higher because of the complexity, and the process requires more developer skills.
What’s even more important is that dynamic pages are not prepared for huge traffic, as their loading speed may drop when there are many users trying to approach them (which also translates to a higher cost for server maintenance).
Constant interaction with users also leads also to more security threats and a risk of a crashing the whole system when something goes wrong.
What type of website should I use?
When we are talking about traditionally rendered websites, static ones are great for simple content with no personalization, such as a blog, landing page or online brochure.
On the other hand, dynamic websites cater to the needs of personalized sites or those with content that has to change quite often, such as weather forecasts or stock quotes.
But you should be aware that you have a better solution that connects the best of both worlds – a dynamically-generated static site. And you can use it to create almost any type of website or web application:
- a landing page
- a B2B services website
- a corporate website
- an eCommerce website and storefront
- a personal blog
- a web application
- a Progressive Web Application (PWA)
How is this possible? Read on!
The Jamstack approach
So now there is a solution that will connect the best advantages of both worlds: let us introduce you to Jamstack.
We have actually already discussed the Jamstack approach in a thorough way on our blog. We will recall the most important ideas here – enough to get you acquainted with it!
Jamstack is not a specific set of tools, an open source solution or name of the company that introduced it. It’s a fresh approach to creating websites and applications.
It allows the developer and user to enjoy the advantages of static websites, such as efficiency, speed, and security, while also allowing for the full interactivity, typical of dynamic sites.
Okay, but why would you care?
With Jamstack, you can have your cake and eat it, too!
The roots of Jamstack sites
How did it all begin? In 2016, a small group of developers invented Jamstack as an answer to the growing problems with dynamic sites performance and scalability as the content served to users was becoming more and more advanced.
They were looking for a technological solution that would take advantage of static sites’ benefits without compromising on modern design and user experience, and of dynamic sites’ benefits, without compromising on speed and performance.
That’s how Jamstack was born.
The new approach rose in prominence in 2017 as the first big projects emerged.
2018 saw the creation of the main static site generators, and also the first conference on the subject was held.
By 2019 more and more developers started taking advantage of this approach.
Data shows its growing popularity – there were 50% more Jamstack websites in 2021 than in 2020, and the number of developers with less than one year of experience more than tripled in the same time span.
So, if you want to stay ahead with your website and your business, you should take a closer look at this world of new possibilities.
How does it exactly work?
As we have just said, Jamstack websites have some features of dynamic sites while, in fact, they are static.
How is this possible? Well, in Jamstack, the front end and the back end are separated, or we’d rather say, decoupled.
It is possible to use the same back end with content for different front ends. This allows for using content management systems (CMS) for managing the website’s content. They’re called headless CMS, as they can be coupled with many different “heads”.
The content is delivered to the front end via APIs (application programming interfaces). It provides a lot of flexibility because you can change the front end layer without affecting the back end.
It is an opposite of traditional monolithic architecture, like WordPress, where the front end and the back end are directly coupled.
By the way, you can make your WordPress Jamstacked (or headlessed), too. We don’t recommend it, but you may want to know about it.
How is a Jamstack site rendered?
As in the case of traditional static websites, pre-rendering can be done using the already mentioned static site generators, but also via server-side rendering (SSR) or incremental static regeneration (ISR).
What is the difference between monolithic and Jamstack approach?
As we have mentioned, the Jamstack approach is the opposite of the monolithic concept. Traditional websites rely on servers, databases, and plugins, while Jamstack ones rely on cloud platforms and serverless architecture.
In the monolithic approach, when the server receives a request for a dynamic page, it has to generate a new HTML document from scratch, merging it with data from the database.
In Jamstack, the HTML is generated once and then served to all user requests from the content delivery network.
How to build a Jamstack site
You can also take advantage of static site generators that will render pages as static files, simplifying the content management process.
Benefits of Jamstack
Jamstack combines the best parts of static and dynamic websites. The benefits are numerous! Let’s discuss the most important ones.
A well-built Jamstack site presents a series of HTML files to the users, so it doesn’t have to build pages from scratch, as in the case of traditional dynamic pages where the system has to answer every user request.
It goes without saying that it boosts the speed of the website manyfold. And fast loading does of course minimize the bounce rate.
CDNs are nearly infinitely scalable, because all the static HTML files are automatically sent to the optimal server and the website’s content can be easily published from any user’s location. Those solutions are ready for a sudden surge of traffic.
The pages’ build process is separated from the users’ actions, there are not many “gates” through which a hacker could sneak into the website’s back end. Sensitive information isn’t stored on the web server, but rather via cloud services.
Good DX (developer experience)
In Jamstack, there are many answers to the question of how the sites are built – each creator may choose their own tools with different levels of complexity. For example, the Jamstack developer has full control over the data source and knows perfectly well what code will be received in the final application or website.
The monolithic approach is more limited in this regard.
Good UX (user experience)
For the same reason, you can deliver the best user experience – you have many front-end technologies and solutions to choose from.
The site is less likely to go down than the dynamic one, because users are still looking for the last set of static files.
The only way through which the page may go down is when the content delivery network goes down – and this happens once in a blue moon.
As they’re fast, well-performant and secure, the Jamstack sites are of course also SEO-friendly.
The process of exporting files required by Google crawlers is very easy – they are automatically generated by most static site generators, just like in static pages.
Thanks to headless CMS, you can display your content on virtually any device – such as e-stands, smart watches, wide-angle screens, kiosks, and others – without the need to make enormous code changes.
Thanks to decoupling, you can arrange the front end any way you like, without the need to make a revolution to the back end.
More traffic will of course mean more costs, but not as much as in the case of traditional dynamic websites.
Moreover, you can build one page at a time – you don’t have to produce the whole system all at once.
One new answer to many old problems
Jamstack is worth noting not only because of the benefits, but also because it gets rid of common problems connected with static and dynamic websites.
You may forget about slow loading typical of content-rich monolithic dynamic websites and their poor security. You can ditch the design limitations and customize everything to your taste.
You may also update content without direct technical knowledge, which was a problem with static sites – with Jamstack, you have a whole range of headless CMS systems that can be easily operated by content owners in a company, or individual merchants in the case of ecommerce pages. Those systems allow you to keep the maintenance costs at a reasonable level.
Jamstack for personalized websites
Due to the above reasons, Jamstack is the best choice when you want to build a highly customized or personalized website, such as an online store. Choosing a traditional dynamic approach in this case would be costly and non-efficient – and it grows exponentially with the level of complexity of the website’s content.
Moreover, you may not exactly know how your business needs would evolve in the years to come, and Jamstack is future-proof in this regard, allowing for organic development of the website and adding new functions gradually.
How to start working with Jamstack
To start with Jamstack projects, you should take into account a few factors. It’s important to clearly set the business goals of the website and what you want to achieve by building it.
In the second step, you have to specify the needs – enlist all desired functions, third-party tools and technologies to be used, and a timeline.
Then, you’ve got to set the budget. The cost of a simple Jamstack site starts from 10 thousand dollars and can rise to even a whopping 100 thousand in the case of web applications.
Of course, you don’t have to do it all by yourself – that’s what Jamstack agencies and software houses are for. Try working with us – send your request now!